23 October 2011

A walk in the Jordan Valley

This past Thanksgiving Monday, we went for a walk in the Jordan Valley in the Niagara Region. This was the last place my parents lived in the Niagara Region before they moved to B.C to be with 3 of their 4 children, and 10 of their 13 grandchildren. They moved just before Thanksgiving 2010 - packed up "Big Brownie" as we call their RV,and traveled across Canada one last time, retiring Big Brownie in the driveway of their new Home in Langley. As you can see, "Big Brownie" is a suitable name for that big fat mocha and chocolate striped brownie on wheels below.
On the day they were to drop by for dinner to say goodbye, I was taking something out of the oven when I heard that distinct rumble of the Big Brownie, a sound that belonged in a campground, slowly coming up the street. As I watched my dad pull up in front of our house I got that sinking feeling when denied truth finally reveals itself. 45 minutes ago they drove away from their house, their town, their people, their neighbors, their memories, their life's history. I walked down the driveway and met my father's gaze. This is it then. 
So it was with a bit of nostalgia that we decided to walk this trail in the Valley that we had walked with my parents before. We've always spent Thanksgiving Monday with my parents in Beamsville or in Jordan - often being outside one way or another to enjoy the crisp air, the fall colours and often the Vineland Arts and Crafts Fair. Though it feels empty with my parent's absence, the land runs deep within me so I feel at home without a home. Speaking of home - a last visit at my parents home a few weeks before they packed up.
We took the trail in the valley that's just past that little campground. It goes through some deciduous forest that lies along the Jordan River, passing the long stairway up to the town of Jordan proper. Jordan is a small village that is the oft found mix of restored history and rich tourist playground. But alas there are gems - here's my favorite place - the Fibre Garden, where I once, with my cousin Andrea, bought "Jordan pool green" hand dyed wool. Moths eventually ate the skeen to pieces in my spare room closet. I really should knit sooner rather than later and use cedar balls. 
Oh, and then there was the Winery - one of hundreds in this area. For $2 we tasted the fruit of the vine while the kids sat in the van. Better to sit in the van with a panting, farting dog than be dragged around all that hand-made art and squeaky wood flooring. I agreed they'd be better off. Cheers to wine without whine!
Ok. Back to the walk. It was lovely. Now a fond memory. I hung back on the path to take a few pics and pick wild asters and linger over bark and admire the dappled sun on the path...

Meanwhile, the boys were like magnets to the river...and the jumping salmon. Ruby's nose knew the salmon were there far before we even got to the river part of the path. Hence her hurrying down the path ahead of everyone. 

We walked past an old rocks and mortar building built into the side of the river valley. This is ancient in Canada years - late 1800's. We are a baby civilization after-all.
Ezra is delighted to take a load off courtesy of his older brother Jonah - Ezra will tolerate anything to get a bit of brotherly love - even being manhandled and carried like a baby. 
End of the trail. I can still smell the dankness of the path, the wild asters in my hand, can even smell the dappled sunshine on Ezra's curly head. We stand here, without my parents, who would have loved the walk. We drove past my parents old house afterwards. First time we ever did that. Different people were sitting in the living-room. But there were my mom's roses, blooming against the sun-warmed wall. I can smell them still.

08 July 2011

tis the season for pie

It's close to midnight on a sultry July night and I have a cherry pie nicely  browning in the oven.
My husband is brushing his teeth,
my sons have said goodnight to their blackberries,
the moon has shown herself to be waxing and
the air outside is thick - the newspaper I just rescued from the backyard is damp, and my fresh strawberry jam jars are sparkling on the counter.

What am I, a housewife?
Part-time. Yes. a wife in the house. how nice to have one of those - I could use a few when I'm working.

Just finished reading Animal Farm by George Orwell. I hadn't read it before. I suppose my High-school English teachers either chose not to or had too many classics to choose from (probably the latter though I suspect the former). I think George might have started critiquing communism - soviet style communism - but then ended up writing about power in general, and probably Stephen Harper specifically - George knew! He knew with that writerly sense what was going to happen to Canada. Fascism and Communism and Progressively More Conservative are not that far from each-other after-all...

Oh, my pie is beeping. Enough of Stephen Harper. Why do I even bother getting bothered? I have a cherry pie in the oven afterall! The flaky crust...
Hmm, it's starting to bubble - almost done - I loooove cherry pie. It's my birthday, was my birthday and I always try to include cherries and strawberries within that day - 7th month, 7th day - I used to think this a secret code from God to me - a pattern with 7's - surely I was destined for great things! How was I to know that cherry pie would be one of them?

A very dear childhood friend recalled on FB today how on 07/07/'77 I celebrated, not my 7th birthday unfortunately, but a birthday, and my mother, the number-cruncher that she is, decorated my cake with those very numerals (typical that she was doing this not before the party but just as we were sitting down to eat cake) and she then proceeded to squirt icing into our open 9 year old mouths - what sinful sensation! What terrible pleasure! What kind of a mother does that?

Well, my well-mannered mother, apparently.

What kind of a friend remembers that?
Well. Michele, to be precise - the kid who had Mars Bars for a school-yard snack, the child who received a whole roll of peppermints to while-away church, the girl who grew up in a house where icecream was as daily as coffee, the woman who still buys fuzzy peaches sour candies...for herself. That kind of sweet-toothed, very sweet friend.

oh this pie is good.
"terrible" as my friend Tracey O'Connor would say with a wink and a full mouth, "just tewwwwible!"
I just finished my second slice, goodness I feel full....ish, certainly I can have another wee slice.
Licked the plate clean, must save the rest for tomorrow.

We had a few cherry trees in our front yard  - my mother was a baker - still is - and she baked sour cherry pies - I remember the sugar that went into one of those pies, and her crust. My mother has managed after all these years to still have the best pie crust - flaky yet substantial, buttery yet made with shortening...I loved them - and she made that classic '70's dessert - cherry cheese cake - The recipe? Take one can of cherry pie filling...a brick of Philly cream cheese, some Graham wafer cracker crumbs... I still love that dessert today even though it is terrible, it's good in a sour fuzzy peaches sort of way. Michele would understand.

I do love being an adult with an oven of her very own. It's a rather nice perk. What's also a nice perk is having three sons who don't know what this side of 12 noon looks like. Handy for eating pie for breakfast.

09 August 2010

Weeding out the weedy.

Since last post, I needed to lay my burden down as they say in old spirituals...and go to the market where I bought a huge bouquet of multicoloured Zinnias  (I used to grow them in the back garden of a house I rented with some girlfriends oh, say about 18 years ago) but haven't grown them since) and fresh Ontario fruit by the basket - blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and peaches - yum! So what did I do? I made a fool, a blackberry raspberry fool - slowlly folding in the puree, studding it with dripping peaches...

I also weeded my garden... literally - the back yard just got weedier as the weeks went by and I hated seeing those weeds more and more so  I started to justify their presence -ie: they're natural, some have flowers, they aren't so so tall....and then, oh they are way too tall, they're taking over and the earth is dry - why break my back pulling? But the only solution was to get rid of them. So I finally got over my big fat laziness (and coralled my husband and youngest...I do hate weeding alone)...and voila, it feels so clean and neat and tended...  I like creative chaos, but that wasn't creative nor constructive, just destructive - soul and otherwise. Now on to fold the mountain of laundry...

In my next post I'll reveal my raised vegetable garden (the only thing that is consistently well-tended ). I would now, but I don't have a photo yet and its too dark to take one. Can you hear the tomatoes ripening in the dark? The vines of the peas curling their tendrils around a new victim?

And, finally, I decided to spend some time with the American poet Walt Whitman, (died in 1919). I have a copy of his Leaves of Grass somewhere, but can't find it - did I lend it to someone? I got a copy out of the Library today.But no preface. The preface is what I was looking for, which I have here below, but all of his writings have such a resonance with me - I discovered him when I was studying at McMaster University a few years back - his words lent me strength and courage when mine was failing, they undergirded my new sense of self, gave me courage to stand up for what I believed and didn't... he is an old friend.

"This is what you shall do; 

Love the earth and sun and the animals, 

despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, 

stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, 

hate tyrants,

argue not concerning God, 

have patience and indulgence toward the people, 

take off your hat to nothing 

known or unknown or to any man or number of men, 

go freely with powerful uneducated persons 

and with the young and with the mothers of families, 

read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, 

re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, 

dismiss whatever insults your own soul, 

and your very flesh shall be a great poem 

and have the richest fluency not only in its words 

but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes 

and in every motion and joint of your body."